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Monday, 29 July 2013

Rugelach

   A sweet treat, rugelach (pronounced roo-ge-la) is a bit time consuming but well worth the effort. The pastry is a tender mix of butter and cream cheese, and the filling can be as rich or as basic as you desire. I didn't have any chocolate chips this time so they were omitted. I think I used a little too much jam - it can be spread quite thinly - as it oozed out during cooking. However, the end results were more than just good; they were decadent!

Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in 4 pieces
1/2 cup butter, cut in 4 pieces
 
Filling

2/3 cup jam or jelly
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup currants
4 oz. mini chocolate chips



Glaze

1 egg
1 tsp. cold water
2 tbsp. sugar

For Dough, place flour and salt in food processor; scatter over room temperature butter and cream cheese. Pulse 6 to 10 times, then process until dough forms large curds - don't let it form a ball on the blade. Turn dough out and gather into a ball and divide in half. Shape each half into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day. 

For Filling, heat jam in microwave just until it melts. Cool. In a small bowl mix sugar and cinnamon. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mat.
Remove one disc from fridge. On sheet of waxed paper, roll into about 11 inch circle. Brush jam on top, sprinkle on half of cinnamon sugar, scatter on half of nuts, currants and chocolate chips. Cover with sheet of waxed paper and gently press filling into dough. Remove paper.
Using pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut dough into 12 triangles, by first cutting into quarters and then cutting each quarter in three. Starting at the base of each triangle, roll up dough the form crescent. Arrange rugelach, seam side down on baking sheet; refrigerate at least 30 minutes or, covered, overnight. Repeat with second dough disc.
Preheat oven to 350C.
For glaze, combine egg and water and use to brush each rugelach. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in oven for 20 to 25 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool on baking sheets on wire racks.



Sunday, 28 July 2013

Tabbouleh

   After much discussion with the guy at the bulk food store, I bought cracked wheat instead of bulgar for the tabbouleh. It required a few minutes of cooking, but basically looked the same when finished. I did change the recipe slightly by reducing the amount of olive oil by half and adding a little extra lemon juice. I also added 1 tsp. of Zattar mix, a Moroccan spice that contains thyme, sesame seeds and sumac.
   Tabbouleh is a great way to use up all the mint and parsley that is growing in my garden, also the tomatoes which are just coming to fruition. I cooked some basa fillets with a panko and parmesan coating which came out nice and crunchy.

1 cup water
1/2 cup bulgar
1 tomato
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small bunch mint, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (I used 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to boil, add bulgar, season with salt, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Cool completely before using. Combine bulgar with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Toss until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A New Flower

   My hibiscus, which lives indoors all winter under very low light conditions, has been outside in full sun since mid-May. However, it has not, until now produced any blooms. Finally, today I caught the first flower as it opened this morning. By noon it was fully open. It will probably only last a day or two. I see another small bud just forming but who knows how long that will take to reach maturity? 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Close Encounter...

   Stepped out into the back yard at dusk a couple of days ago and came face to face with a raccoon! Usually they are heard but not seen, or leave evidence of their presence - footprints or overturned garbage pails. To actually confront one is quite unusual as they are nocturnal creatures. I don't know who was more surprised as neither of us moved for about 30 seconds, then he climbed the fence and disappeared into my neighbour's yard.

  True to his thieving nature, I had caught him in the act of stripping my raspberry bushes of ripe berries! This may have been what lured him out before dark. He wasn't very big, about the size of a large cat, so I think he may have been a youngster, not aware of the dangers humans present. Although, truthfully, there was no way I was going to go after him with a shovel. I did that once when a family of raccoons settled in my attic to breed - and did extensive and expensive damage to my roof before being unceremoniously evicted by a wildlife control officer.

   A few nights ago, as I was reading in the family room, there was an unholy crash outside. Although I went out and peered around, I couldn't identify what had made the noise. However, come morning, I discovered the bowl of my birdbath in two pieces on the ground. Now I suspect the culprit may have been my new raccoon friend looking for a drink of water.

   It got very dark a few minutes ago and now the heavens have opened and I just heard a crash of thunder. So much for tennis tonight. This was to have been a "food night"  - in between matches we are treated to pizza, wings and other goodies - but I guess I will have to fend for myself for dinner tonight.

Monday, 22 July 2013

First Round of Golf

  Today dawned cool and overcast so, after dithering around for half-an-hour, I decided to head down to Dentonia Golf Centre, an 18-hole par 3 course in the city. It was perfect weather and the course wasn't too busy, although a tad slow. I made it through the first 11 holes, then saw a gap and skipped 3 holes to finish in about 2 1/2 hours. I was pretty beat by then, mainly because I wasn't playing very well and had to play a second ball off most tees. I also lost two balls in the water but found three others! The main thing was to see if I could still hit the ball consistently, if not well, as I hadn't been on a golf course since my accident last September. So, all is well and I will be less reluctant to head out on the next suitable day.

   Since it's still quite cool I will get some garden tidy up done later.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Change in the Weather

   The heat has finally broken after a night of several thunder storms. A very pleasant 23C this morning and overcast but has since cleared with the temperature rising to 30C. Even with all the rain that came down last night, the pool is still well over 80F.

   I read in the newspaper today that it is time to dig up my garlic. Seemingly when the scapes straighten out, the bulbs are ready. I picked the scapes last week but they were already straight, so I figured it was time to get at the bulbs. Despite the rain last night this was easier said than done as they were quite deep. In fact I sliced through a couple of them in the process. They are pretty healthy looking specimens!

   I had dug up the onions last week so now all are drying in the garage - quite a good crop this year. Also got some tomatoes this week, just these yellow cherries (they are huge, much bigger than actual cherries!) and some tiny "sweet 100's". I will definitely get at least 100 from this one plant. The regular tomatoes are almost ready, so I won't be buying any more for a few weeks. They will taste so much better than those from the store.























 










The phlox is looking good this week. I have it in three spots in the garden, a beautiful pink shade but not much perfume.


 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Too Hot....!

   The house did not cool down overnight - I got up around 2:00 a.m (I'd been sleeping in the basement ) and the main floor was 27C, the upstairs 32C. Not much cooler by 7:30 a.m. but I closed all the windows and hoped for the best.  It's actually the humidity that makes it feel so uncomfortable. Judy and the kids arrived around 11:30 and went straight in the pool; they looked quite exhausted with the heat. We had lunch outside which turned out to be a very good idea as they went right back in the water as soon as they ate.

   James went to his room around 1:00 but didn't sleep - I didn't blame him as it was quite uncomfortable up there. I guess I'll be sleeping in the basement again tonight. Natalie made up a little nest down there in the afternoon and had forty winks.

   We have just got out of the pool, dried off and it is clouding over. Only two more days of this heat as it is forecast to drop down to 14C on Friday night. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A Couple of Lazy Days

   I have been very lazy about keeping my blog up-to-date, primarily because it has been very hot. Also, my back has been bothering me - too much tennis and some hard gardening. Over the weekend I finally got the bushes at my front door trimmed down to size as Steve had fixed my hedge trimmer the last time he visited. I had to get out the stepladder to reach the top but they look much better now.

   Today, feeling a bit more agile, I headed out early for tennis as a heat alert had been issued. We played sporadically for about an hour and a half by which time the temperature was approaching 30C. I was surprised how much more comfortable I felt after hitting a few balls but didn't move around the court too much because of the heat. Everyone was doing the same. After a swim and lunch I headed to my bed for a nap and have been in and out of the pool since, alternating with reading in the shade.

   I have finished Dan Brown and am now reading "The View From Penthouse B", a very funny novel by Elinor Lipman. It's about two newly single sisters and their adventures into the world of online dating. Quite hilarious! 

   The raspberries are coming in, with a vengeance, but I have held off picking too many as the grandkids are coming over tomorrow and will demolish them in short order. I hope they have fun in the pool as the temperature of the water today was 82F, hotter without the use of the heater than I can ever remember. I will try to get some photos of them.

   Luckily, it is leftover chicken tonight so I don't have to turn on the oven. I am praying that the house will cool off somewhat overnight so that James can sleep tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Garlic Pesto Pizza

   I found some marked down naan at the grocery store today and had a brainwave, involving the pesto I made last week from the garlic scapes. It only required me to remove the jar of pesto from the freezer in enough time to be able to defrost enough to thinly cover a piece of naan. Then I topped it with tomato, sweet onion and grated cheese. A few minutes under the broiler and it was ready. Very delicious!

   I am still eating the last of the strawberries from my trip to the berry farm on Monday. There weren't enough left to freeze so I will just nibble away at them until they are gone. I need to eat them up as the raspberries in the garden are just about ready to pick. I have plenty of jam to last me until next summer and it can double as a dessert topping or to fill turnovers.




  I am really enjoying the Dan Brown book, especially as it is set in Florence, one of my favourite stops on my Tuscany trip. He obviously knows Florence extremely well as he has incorporated many of the well know art sites, palaces and gardens into the plot. I was curious about some of the sculptures he mentioned and went on line to find them. Lo and behold, there is a whole website based on his book and the Florence connections. That's one way to fritter away a hot afternoon!

   Tonight I am cooking tilapia which is not a fish I usually try. I hope it is tasty.

 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Blue Hues

    A new colour in my garden palette, this time out front - and this is the only place in my borders where blue dominates. This plant, I believe, is called "Balloon Flower". You can see, before the blossoms open, they resemble little balloons. This particular perennial propagates easily, as I found out after nipping off the old blossoms and tossing them back in the border. Next year I had dozens of new plants!
     I'm not sure what this plant is called, as it just appeared in my border, but it is such a pretty mauve colour that I encouraged it along and now have it in two spots. It looks very colourful in contrast to the little sedum bush beside it.
 
   Beautiful weather for the last two days. The humidity has gone, the nights are cool and the days, sunny and warm - perfect tennis weather, but also good and cool for garden tasks. Today it's cleaning the pool!

   Yesterday I started reading Dan Brown's latest book, "Inferno". It's another conspiracy tale featuring his hero, Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks in the movie versions). I really enjoyed his two previous adventures "Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons". We shall see how this one stacks up against them. So far it is similarly fast-paced and full of danger.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Change of colour

   Last month my garden was all about pink. Although I still have some pink phlox about to bloom, the colours are more in the orange range this month. Day lilies are blooming in several spots and a very pretty yellowy-orange daisy has just started to flower and will be around until late August, Unfortunately I don't know its name.

   The day lilies are interesting. As the name suggests, each bloom only lasts one day but there are several on each long stalk so a new flower is opening all the time. They will continue to flower until the end of the month. This is a plant you will see growing wild in many rural areas as well as cultivated in urban gardens. In fact there is a large patch of them I pass on my way to the tennis courts, beside a fence, seemingly the overgrow from someone's garden.  They are such a cheery bright colour!
 
 
The daisies are rather gangly and spread out but I hate to tie them up as they seem more natural this way. They are nestled in my rock garden with hosta, sedum and other perennials.
 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Pesto

   I finally picked the garlic scapes yesterday. They were almost as tall as me. You can just see the seed pod just behind the kids' heads. I think I may have left them a bit too long as they were a bit woody. Nevertheless I made pesto with them and it smells deliciously garlicy. Now I just have to figure out ways of using it. It's in the freezer at the moment. 
 
 
 Here are the scapes ready for the food processor.
 
 After the first processing followed by the addition of grated parmesan and olive oil.
After a day in the freezer!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wimbledon and a good book

   I have spent a lazy weekend watching the Wimbledon finals - both good matches but the Men's Final today was particularly exciting. The Brits finally have a home grown champion after 77 years! It was so close and tense at times I could hardly bear to watch, but finally Andy Murray (a Scot) prevailed over Novak Djokovic.

   We have had on-and-off rain today but, thankfully, I got the grass cut before the rain set in. This has also removed the need to water the garden or fill up the pool. In between times I have finished reading "Daughters of Mars", Thomas Keneally's novel of the Great War and the role of Australian nurses in tending the huge number of wounded soldiers from several countries at the front in Gallipoli and France. This included tending those who were gassed and who contracted a severe form of 'flu in an epidemic that took hold during the last months of the war. The number of casualties and dead was tremendous. Truly horrifying stuff!

   Now I am reading "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a complete contrast in content as it is set in the decade that followed the Great War and epitomizes a frivolous life style that was the complete opposite of the grittiness of war.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A Very Rainy Day

   The rain fell pretty continuously all day and put a damper on the 2nd. annual Wimbledon party at the tennis club. However, there was a good turnout and lots of food, even though the courts remained wet all day. Thankfully it wasn't raining at Wimbledon. The UK seems to be having an unusually nice and dry spell of weather. We watched the two semi-final matches on the clubhouse TV and cheered for our favourite players. Then we had a fine pot luck lunch followed by strawberries and cream on scones or shortcake. Only a light supper for me tonight! This is a tradition that I hope continues well into the future.

   I haven't been strawberry picking yet but hope to go on Monday. The berries should be big and juicy as we have had lots of rain in the last month. I will make some jam and a strawberry rhubarb pie. If there are any berries left after that, I will freeze them for the winter months when fresh produce is more expensive.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A New Lily

 
  Most of my blossoming flowers and bushes have very little perfume but today I was assailed by a very powerful aroma in my garden. I traced it to a lily in my raspberry patch - either I planted it there and the raspberry canes overtook it or those darned squirrels have been up to their tricks again. It is a gorgeous pink but will probably only last for a few days and it doesn't look as if there are any more buds on the plant. It's always nice to find something unexpected in the garden!









    The lavender is at its best this week, also with a strong perfume, but only if you get quite close or spray it with water.








   Another great day in the pool for the young ones! James took a while to get in but was hurtling down the slide before too long. The water was 81F and the air temperature a comfortable 27C. Natalie was in as soon as they arrived even though it was still pretty cool, and the boys joined her after lunch.

 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Canada Day

    Hey! Who's been eating my Canada Day cupcake? It definitely has a nibble out of it. Well, I ate it anyway and it was delicious - chocolate sponge with whipped cream topping. I ate every crumb.

    A special holiday social at the tennis club  today - round robin play from 10:00 a.m. to noon, then lunch; hamburgers and two salads, followed by more cake and lots of nibblies, coffee and lemonade. I will definitely need to go easy on my food intake for the rest of the week as I am still working on the cheesecake from Saturday's party. We were quite lucky with the weather today as it was threatening to rain (although not cold) all afternoon but it never materialized. After the food there were announcements and a lucky draw - no prizes for me this time. I headed home around 1:00 p.m. and had a nap before doing some garden clean-up. It was an ideal day for that - cool and no humidity.

    Right now fireworks are popping in the distance. Happy Canada Day to all Canadians at home and abroad!